They’re ticking all the wrong boxes.
The New York City Board of Elections was torn to shreds on Tuesday over two recent blunders that have cast doubt on the agency’s ability to conduct mail-in voting for the Nov. 3 election.
Numerous politicians — including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo — slammed the city’s independent BOE for the flubs, including sending return envelopes with incorrect names and addresses to as many as 100,000 Brooklyn residents who requested absentee ballots.
That error, which the BOE blamed on an outside vendor, came after election officials sent out confusingly worded ballots that had voters believing they’d received voting documents meant for military use.
“It’s appalling,” de Blasio said. “I don’t know how many times we’re going to see the same thing happen at the BOE and be surprised.”
The mayor said the gaffes were impermissible, coming at a time when leaders are encouraging people to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic to limit gatherings at polling sites.
A top aide to the governor also rapped the BOE for the fumbles.
“It’s unacceptable and it’s something that they’ve got to take charge of right away,” said Cuomo Secretary Melissa DeRosa.
State GOP chairman Nick Langworthy said it undermines the trust in mail-in voting.
“This is a colossal mistake that continues to validate all of our concerns and seriously undermines the credibility and integrity of this election. Cuomo and the Democrats rammed this ill-conceived and ill-prepared system through while refusing to knowledge any potential pitfalls and attacked anyone who had concerns as racist,” Langworthy said.
“They own this mess and we will continue to urge people to vote in-person to ensure their vote is counted.”
The first error, a misprint, made it appear that voters had received an “Official Military Absentee Ballot” instead of a “Military/Absentee Ballot,” leaving several New Yorkers who received the documents worried that their votes might not be properly tallied.
The second problem appeared to have happened when the BOE’s vendor, Rochester-based Phoenix Graphics, used a new automated machine to assign voters’ names, ID labels and addresses to be included in the oath statements and return envelopes used to mail the ballot.
The machine went haywire and spit out the labels with the wrong names and addresses to voters in Brooklyn, said Doug Kellner, co-chairman of the New York State Board of Elections, who is investigating the matter.
“If left uncorrected people could lose their vote,” said Kellner, who believes there’s still time to fix the major screwup.
Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan pledged on Tuesday that voters who were part of the botched mailings will be sent a new ballot, and that Phoenix would foot the bill. The vendor in May was awarded a $4.6 million contract — for which it was the only bidder — to make and distribute absentee ballots for the BOE.
The body has previously caught flak from the White House on its handling of mail-in balloting in the June’s primary contests, which were widely seen as a test run for remote voting’s viability in November.
President Trump in particular has voiced concerns about the security and expediency of mail-in voting, and Democratic challenger Joe Biden has reportedly bolstered his legal staff for a potentially bitter and protracted legal battle over possible hinky ballots.
Critics said the recent mistakes in New York could undermine confidence in the absentee voting process, during an election when a record number of mail-in ballots are expected because of the pandemic.
“Perceived threats to our democracy emerging from the federal government are exacerbated when confidence in the absentee voting process is undercut,” said Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman Rodneyse Bichotte.
“This error undermines our efforts to make voting more accessible and transparent.”
Manhattan Councilwoman Carlina Rivera said the mistakes, while alarming, weren’t that surprising — coming just months after the BOE rejected more than 80,000 absentee votes during the primary election for technical issues, many of which were the agency’s own fault.
“For those of us paying attention, we knew this was coming. The issues in the primary, they were set to repeat. We must be better than this,” Rivera said.
She added: “The BOE sending incorrect voting material is clearly deeply alarming. It’s the most important election of our lifetimes.”
Rivera pointed to the problems during the June 23 primary, mired in litigation because thousands of mail-in ballots were not properly postmarked and processed.
In total nearly one in four absentee ballots — over 80,000 or 23 percent — were invalidated, in large part because voters did not sign the oath statement because they hadn’t noticed the tiny directions to do so.
“We all knew there were challenges that lay ahead, but unfortunately because there this culture of finger-pointing and no one taking responsibility for what’s happened — no one is going to have any faith in the BOE to pull this off.”
Rivera said the BOE — whose members are appointed by the county Democratic and Republican county leaders and the City, and does not fall under the oversight of the mayor — needs a “complete overhaul.”
Liz Balsamo, 68, who lives on 3rd Place in Carroll Gardens, received a ballot for a woman voter a block away.
“What next? My first reaction was, ‘here we go.’ Someone will be voting wrong on my behalf,” Balsamo said. “I’m losing faith in everything these days. We are doomed. Truthfully, can’t trust the whole system these days,’ she said, adding, “May God bless America!”
Brooklyn Heights resident Jiong Wang received a return envelope for his ballot with the name and address of a voter who lives a half-mile away.
“It’s a major problem. This is not stoking confidence in the election system,” Wang previously told The Post.
A government watchdog group said the latest blunder provides more ammunition to get rid of the city BOE and turn into a non-partisan agency, akin to the city Campaign Finance Board.
“The Board of Elections should be abolished. This stuff is going to happen time and time again,” said John Kaehny, director of Reinvent Albany.
The mayor has argued that the BOE should be made a mayoral agency to bring more accountability and supervision.
During a press conference Tuesday, the governor was asked if he would support a change in state law to reform the city BOE.
Cuomo passed the buck to the City Council, saying it would first have to approve a proposal to submit to the state Legislature.
“It’s very common that the New York City Council pass a law that requires state approval — but then pass a law and then give us the law,” Cuomo said.
Some 520,000 ballots have already been mailed to voters who requested them — and that number could easily top 1 million before Election Day.
Additional reporting by Julia Marsh and Bernadette Hogan
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